Sunday, December 13, 2009

Anne Rice's "The Road to Cana"

Earlier this year I posted a blog on Anne Rice's book, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt." I had intended to pick up the companion book immediately after finishing the first one, but I didn't get around to it until a few weeks ago. "Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana" has since made its way to the list of books that have significantly influenced my faith for life.

I won't go into a lot of detail here, because a summary doesn't do justice to the masterful way Anne Rice handles the subject matter and how she seems to make the prose sing (I can't say this about many authors, but I literally read one chapter aloud just to hear the words dance). The book further paints a picture of what it really means for Jesus to be well acquainted with our sufferings and temptations. She imagines, for example, what it would have been like for Jesus to be in love in a romantic sense, to be tempted in physical ways, to experience the heartbreak of love unrequited, and to remain sinless through it all.

Chapter 21 (the chapter I read aloud) is worth the price of admission in and of itself. It depicts Jesus, alone with his thoughts and in prayer with His Father, as he struggles for the 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism. I will quote a bit of it just so you can get a taste:

"Oh, Lord, God, what is judgment and how can it be, if I cannot bear to be with all of them for every ugly word, every harsh and desperate cry, for every gesture examined, for every deed explored to its roots? And I saw the deeds, the deeds of my own life, the smallest, most trivial things, I saw them suddenly in their seed and sprout and with their groping branches; I saw them growing, intertwining with other deeds, and those deeds come to form a thicket and a woodland and a great roving wilderness that dwarfed the world as we hold it on a map, the world as we hold it in our minds. Dear God, next to this, this endless spawning of deed from deed and word from word and thought from thought--the world is nothing. Every single soul is a world!"

And later: "What judgment can there ever be for man, woman, or child--if I am not there for every heartbeat at every depth of their torment?"

It gets better, but I obviously can't quote the whole book here.

I know some people may object to a fiction book putting words in Jesus' mouth that scripture doesn't record Him saying, but Ms. Rice does not give Him words that seem out of place with His character. As in the first book, she shows great restraint in her depiction, and in this second book, she also shows the amazing restraint Jesus Himself must have shown in all aspects of His life. Reading Jesus' "thoughts," one begins to grasp how humanity and divinity might have overlapped and tugged at Him and how He denied Himself many things and endured much so that He could be the perfect sacrifice He came to be. I think I now can better understand the passages in Hebrews that talk about Jesus being "made perfect," because His sinless self had to undergo suffering and temptation in order to be the empathetic, substitutionary high priest and "the source of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9). It is a great encouragement to me to seek to do what's right even when it's hard, to choose the path of love even when my mind cries out for justice, and to follow His commands because I know He's been there before and will walk with me through it again.

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